JUNE 24, 2009
I dunno how, but I have managed to see many of the DTV sequels (and this was long before the HMAD days), yet never watched the original Children Of The Corn. I caught bits and pieces on local TV stations on lazy summer days (any New Hampshire readers? WNDS for the win!), and must have mentally figured that was good enough to dive into the increasingly ludicrous sequels (I gave up after the one with Naomi Watts).
Unsurprisingly, this one is the best, assuming my less than glowing memories of the others hold true today (though I recall thinking that the 3rd one, which took place in an urban city, wasn’t too bad). It’s obviously stretched from a short story, but in a way that sort of makes what works about the film even more impressive. In the original story, they hit the kid, drive to Gatlin, and pretty much die instantly. It’s fast paced and somewhat pulpy, with a downer ending and minimal time spent with the children.
The movie, on the other hand, pretty much throws everything out. The characters have the same names, and they go to Gatlin seeking help after hitting a kid, but that’s about it. For starters, the movie couple is fairly happy, whereas in the story they hate each other and are on the brink of divorce. They even change little things about the characteristics; for example, the guy (Burt) in the story has quit smoking, but in the movie he smokes, despite the fact that actor Peter Horton does NOT smoke in real life and looks rather silly trying to appear as if he’s a regular. Why bother making the change?
Also, the movie introduces two sympathetic children who help our heroes. I can go either way on them. I liked the idea of the whole town truly being against these two schmucks, but a 90 minute movie would suffer from the basic fact that neither of them would come into any real danger until the final 10 minutes or so. With the children, we at least have the suspense over whether or not the kids are really helping them, or leading them into a trap.
The movie also makes Vicky (Linda Hamilton) more integral to the proceedings. In the story she sits in the car while Burt looks around (for like, 2 pages) and then disappears, only to be found dead later on. Here, she goes along with Burt, bonds with the little girl, etc. Director Fritz Kiersch gets some mileage (OK, padding) by splitting them up and cutting back and forth between their respective “investigation”. And I love the bit of how they know something’s wrong because the "TV Guide" they find is three years old.
That bit and several others seem very Stephen King esque, so it may come as something of a surprise to learn (if you haven’t read the story) that all of these things were the invention of screenwriter George Goldsmith (King had no involvement with the film’s production). Specific rock n roll songs, a mechanic who treats his dog like a partner (and says the film’s best line: “We’re out of gas... and you can’t use the bathroom unless you buy some gas!”), etc... these things all reek of King’s pop-culture and oft-overlooked comic touch, but none of them are in the story (the mechanic character is the film’s design entirely). It’s kind of odd that they managed to completely change the structure and ending of his story but yet come off as feeling faithful to his style.
Speaking of the ending, it feels like a bit of a copout. I figured Hamilton would live, especially as she takes on a bit of a mother role for the two “good” kids, but why couldn’t Horton have bought it? Goddamn happy endings. Luckily this was 1984, so if you wanted to see Hamilton lose her love interest in a movie, you only had to wait a couple months, but still.
Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray is pretty goddamn phenomenal, if I do say so myself. They’ve never really disappointed me with their transfers, but holy shit. The level of detail and vibrancy to the color is astonishing, particularly in the well-lit diner scene that opens the film. The credits sequence as well; you can actually see the texture of the cheap paper on which the little girl has colored all of her visions. I’m no expert on high def and all that stuff, but I know what I can see, and I can see that of all the “old” movies I’ve seen on Blu, this is by far the most impressive.
They have also put together a nice collection of extras, both new and old. Carried over from the 20th anniversary DVD is a 36 minute recollection from cast and crew. It’s a typical piece, and a lot of the stuff is covered on the other supplements, including the three new pieces. One is with the production designer and composer, two folks you don’t often hear from on these type of things. Then Hamilton (who does not appear on the original piece) talks about her experiences, and also seems to be unaware that John Franklin, who played Isaac, was not a young boy but a 23 year old man at the time of filming (Franklin suffers from a growth deficiency). Finally, producer Donald P. Borchers talks about his role in the production, though he seems like he is reading his memories from a report. The commentary is also held over, and it’s a fun track, with Kiersch, Franklin, Courtney Gains, and producer Terrence Kirby ribbing each other and occasionally pointing out some errors (and those god awful effects - apparently New World cut their budget halfway through filming). You can also put on a trivia track, but like Hellraiser’s, a lot of the stuff the track displays is identical to what is being said on the commentary. Though, it does offer up a few new gems, such as the fact that Hamilton and Horton (who doesn’t appear in any of the bonus features) were once married and divorced before they made the film. Given that the short story had the two of them fighting and bickering all the time, I have to wonder why they didn’t use this to their advantage and get what would be the most genuine “couple who hates each other” chemistry in film history.
If you have the old release, then you probably don’t need to upgrade unless you own a Blu-Ray player (which you damn well should). The new supplements are good, but nothing that will justify another 15-20 bucks. However, if you’re like me and equipped with BR, then by all means check this disc out when it hits stores in a few weeks. The transfer is immaculate and can be used as a reference for whenever an “old” movie (ahem, Ghostbusters) has a less-than-stellar BR transfer and people say “Well how good can it look when it’s x amount of years old?”. If a low-budget B movie can look this good in high def, everything should.
What say you?